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Ditch the DEET: Better Bug Spray with Essential Oils


My family comes alive in the summer. From the boat to the bonfires, and a weekend or two of glamping, it seems like we do everything outside. My fondest memories are the bonfires. I can still see my sons standing there with their little hoodies on, their faces lit up from the beautiful flame…and me, standing over them as I spray toxic chemicals all over their bodies to “protect” them from mosquitoes.


Ah, yes. Summer. I can still hear their coughing and wheezing—I can see their red, watery eyes from the irritants in the can. Yep. I didn’t think twice about telling my sons to hold their breath while I doused them in bug spray laced with DEET, a chemical known to cause neurological damage. It’s better than a mosquito bite, right?


The answer is no; however, the two come so close that I think it’s hard to tell what’s worse. Mosquitoes are some of the most deadly creatures on the planet. Their ability to spread diseases like malaria, West Nile, dengue fever, yellow fever, and Zika virus makes me hesitate to ever step outside without protecting myself.

Dangerous ingredients

That protection used to be a can of bug spray. While the entire free world has now heard about the dangers of the common pesticide DEET—the chemical that we’re supposed to spray all over our skin and inhale that can melt plastic? Yes, that one. What a lot of people don’t realize is that DEET is not the only dangerous thing misting around the campground in the summer.


Another common toxin in your go-to bug spray is permethrin. It also melts plastic. Like DEET, it can cause skin irritation, headaches, dizziness, and seizures. It’s deadly to aquatic animals and bees. It’s poison in a can and it’s not something you want on or in your body.


So what is the solution? We want to avoid the deadly mosquitoes, but we must avoid the mosquito-killing chemicals. So, what’s the answer? Staying inside isn’t really an option. Like I said, we come alive in the summer!


At Forum Health, I’ve learned how to protect my family by taking the natural path and that includes insect repellents.


It is possible to make your own SAFE bug sprays. Essential oils are highly effective. Some of my preferred oil repellents are citronella, clove, rosemary, tea tree, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, and cedarwood.


One of my favorite recipes takes about five minutes to make. You’ll need a glass spray bottle. Mix:


  • ½ cup of witch hazel
  • ½ cup of water (or vinegar)
  • 1 TBS of rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tsp of vegetable glycerin
  • 30 drops of citronella essential oil
  • 20 drops of lemongrass essential oil
  • 10 drops of tea tree essential oil
  • 20 drops of lavender essential oil


Spray it on clothing, gear, chairs, and anywhere necessary to create a nice area of protection. (Spray a small amount on clothing first to see if it stains)


If you don’t have a slew of essential oils on hand (you should really reconsider that if you don’t), there are alternative solutions, like AMG Naturally’s Bug Off! You’ll also find many natural recipes on sites like Pinterest. You just need to look.


Remember it’s important to read labels. Do your homework. Be aware of what you’re putting on yourself and your family. We have an opportunity to teach the younger generation the right way to live longer in health and vitality. Don’t you want to be part of that? I know I do. Make sure you don’t miss it.